Three mothers stood outside the school gates and discussed their child’s progress in writing. While one mother lamented that her daughter refused to pick up the pencil and put it to paper, another explained how she made writing fun for her child by making the letters look like a racetrack. The third laughed and wondered aloud, “I don’t know why we worry so much about their handwriting now. Soon, they will start designing their projects on the computer anyway.” Quite true, today, we hardly engage in the act of writing. Whenever we need to take down any information, we automatically reach for our phones or tablets. So, when our six-year-old asks us why he can’t do his homework on the laptop like daddy, it becomes difficult to answer his questions and convince him.
But, before you answer your child’s questions, you, as a parent, need to understand why writing by hand is still relevant and important for him.
Here are some of the benefits of writing
Develops cognitive and motor skills: The process of observing the letters of the alphabet, memorising them and then copying them on paper develops cognitive and motor skills in children.
Boosts memory: Writing is a longer process compared to typing or keyboarding. It also uses more complex motor skills. So, children who write or take notes, memorise the details better than those who type on the computer. Dr Anita Gautam, Consultant Psychiatrist, Gautam Hospital & Research Center and the Gautam Institute of Behavioral Sciences and Alternative Medicine, Jaipur, says, “Studies have shown that when we write with a pen, different parts of our brain get activated and many neurons are released, which, in turn, makes the brain sharp and active and increases memory. When children use pen and paper instead of typing, they remember it for a longer period.”
Improves language and reading skills: Since writing builds memory, it aids the development of language and reading skills. With the help of writing, children learn to retrieve letters and words from their memory better, therefore, they learn how to spell more accurately.
Exercises the brain: The act of writing stimulates areas of the brain which deal with thinking and short-term memory. Virginia Berninger, a psychologist at the University of Washington, says, “Writing is the way we learn what we’re thinking. The handwriting, the sequencing of the strokes, engages the thinking part of the mind.”
“Writing by hand activates the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) region (near the junction between the posterior parietal and occipital lobes) responsible for the person’s thinking. The inferior frontal gyrus (near the anterior edge of the temporal lobe), known as Broca’s language area, is responsible for expressive language. The act of writing by hand can be defined as a complex perceptual motor skill that depends on the maturation and integration of a number of cognitive, perceptual, and motor skills, and is developed through instruction.”
- Ponnuri Gopiikrishna, Handwriting Expert, Founder, Sree Bhagavathi Yoga Trust, Vijayawada
Helps in better expression: When your child writes essays or compositions, she learns to express herself better and come up with more ideas. According to studies, children who write more compared to keyboarding also tend to write faster and longer. Development of this skill helps them perform better at school and in examinations.
Gives confidence: Good handwriting says a lot about your child’s personality and confidence levels. According to Dr Anita Gautam, “Handwriting is the mirror to a person’s personality. A lot can be understood by only looking at the handwriting of a person. If the writing is sloppy and filled with spelling mistakes, it shows the writer is a lazy and careless person. You have to put in effort to have good handwriting.” As children practise writing by hand more, they will develop their own style of writing. With time, their handwriting will also improve and this will earn them praise at school.
For children who find the act of writing tedious or boring, here are some fun ways to get them interested in writing.
Tips to encourage your child to write
Play it ‘write’: The most important thing is to make writing fun for your child and not make it feel like work. Spread flour on a plate and ask him to write on it. You can also use a stick as pencil to write on sand.
Use interesting surfaces: At times, it helps if your child can feel the surface as she writes. Use a textured surface like sandpaper or craft paper to write on, to encourage her.
Go in for highlighters: While learning how to write, some children find it difficult to stay within the lines. To make the task easier, use different coloured pens to highlight the top, middle and the bottom lines. That way he will remember that tall letters like ‘l’ or ‘t’ touch the top blue line while some letters like ‘y’ and ‘g’ dip below the yellow line.
Build a grip: Many children struggle with the grip on their pencil. If your child hasn’t learnt to hold the pencil properly, she may have an untidy handwriting. Using slide-on rubber grips may help solve this problem. Your child can also practise with crayons or smaller colour pencils. To help her with the pincer grip, encourage her to play with building blocks which enables better coordination between the thumb and the index finger.
Good writing skills (including good handwriting) earn your child praise at school and gives his confidence a boost. This, in turn, sets him up for success later in life. And, you can ensure that by teaching him and encouraging him to write more at home.
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